Splashes and surprises along the Thames
Dorney Lake to Teddington
Weird… wonderful…wacky… When cruising on the Thames or walking nearby keep your eyes open as round every corner there is something unexpected to see.
On Wednesday morning at Dorney Lake (the Eton College and Olympic rowing course) the grass was being cut and the weed-cutter boat was clearing weeds from the racing lake water. About a third of the way along the 2,220 metre straight, set back on the edge of the arboretum, is what looked like an art installation. Why would there be a druids’ circle with a celestial orb in the centre…? Closer inspection revealed that this was a tribute to the work of Eton Aggregates who had extracted (warning: some big numbers coming up) some 4,500,000 tonnes of sand and gravel, 1,970,000 cubic metres of topsoil and subsoil and 585,000 cubic metres of basal clay during the construction of the world class rowing course. (See here for further detail). The sphere represents the Earth and the precise latitude and longitude of the race course start and finish lines are engraved inside the sculptured piece.
Just before Old Windsor Lock (Thursday) a hi-vis jacketed crew were out on the bridge above the weir, presumably inspecting it. How do these things get built or repaired? Coming upstream fast, a day later, was a tug, towing a massive load on a barge. What physical effort it took for the helmsman to steer the barge. A broad smile betrayed his enjoyment of the job! But was the load on the barge a section of weir machinery…?
It was a surprising coincidence then to see at Teddington Lock a plaque explaining Operation Dynamo. From here 100 Little Ships were assembled to sail to Dunkirk to rescue French and British troops in 1940.
As the Thames winds its way towards London the trip boats increase in number. Some seem to be just glorified floating double decker buses while others have more class. Would it be work or play to be a musician on one of these lovely vessels?
What luck it was to find a mooring space outside Hampton Court Palace on Friday. A four hour visit seemed just to skim the surface of all there was to see and do. Beautifully ornate chimneys (241 in total), vast courtyards,
elaborate window mouldings, spacious staterooms – the building is nothing but impressive! But what was this, a wall at the bottom of a bed? It is a rare giltwood bedrail (probably dating from the mid 1600s) in the sumptuous State Bedchamber designed in 1715 for the then Prince and Princess of Wales. At a morning ceremony called a levee courtiers would be received: the “wall” was designed to keep the crowds back from the bed.
Hampton Court is 500 years old now and a novel way of linking past historic figures associated with the Palace is via images printed on deckchair canvas in the gardens.
(cleared away later by community police officers).
Should, reader, you think that life afloat Cleddau has been just one long lazy cruise, think again. She is 26 years old now and needs regular TLC. In recent days she has been washed and had both sides and a section of roof polished. A square patch of rust under the solar panel has been treated and a first coat of paint applied. The engine requires regular and frequent maintenance (and the diesel bug issue has meant a certain amount of fuel filter cleaning and changing). As for diesel this is the 88p per litre price from the Thames-based fuel boat compared to the 135p price at riverside marinas.
(Normally the fuel boat is moored at Staines – ring 07921 694 287 to confirm location).
So on Saturday 22nd August at Teddington Lock, Phase 4 of the 2015 Summer Cruise ended.
Tomorrow requires an 0740 locking down onto slack water just before the top of the tide, bound for Brentford and the Grand Union Canal.
2015 Summer Cruise
Phase 1: Poynton (Macclesfield Canal) to Worcester, 112 miles and 89 locks.
Phase 2: Worcester to Bristol, 79 miles and 11 locks.
Phase 3: Bristol to Reading (the Kennet and Avon Canal), 93 miles and 106 locks.
Phase 4: Rivers Thames and Wey, 148 miles and 72 locks.
Phase 5: London Ring, 44 miles and 27 locks.
Phase 6: Northbound to home moorings via the Ashby Canal, 251 miles and 154 locks.
Stats since last post: 26 miles, 8 locks
Monkton Moments* to date: 18
(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)